Transcription: #31 - Rishon Blumberg / 10x Management: Representing Tech Stars!
 #31 - Rishon Blumberg / 10x Management: Representing Tech Stars!


Aderson Oliveira: I've spoken with Rishon Blumberg. He is the founder of 10x Management, which is a firm that represents tech talents the same way as Hollywood agents represent actors. It is a very interesting model where the freelancer talent doesn't have to worry about the next gig, the next contract, or how to put together the contract, and to collect payments from their clients. They don't have to worry about that. They just need to worry about doing the coding, doing the tech side of the engagement.

He also talked about the vetting mechanism that they have put in place to whether or not someone is really a tech superstar. Lastly, he mentioned about what is hot and what is trending in the marketplace right now in terms of new opportunities. And who knows, maybe you are the next talent that they are looking for.

Hello, hello, Aderson Oliveira here. This is the OuchSourcing Podcast where I talk to experts, to business owners, to specialists, to people that are involved with outsourcing and everything that permeates the subject. No other subject permeates better outsourcing than the freelancing economy. That's the reason why I have with me today, Rishon Blumberg. He is the founder of 10x Management, which is an agency that represents the world's greatest tech freelancers. Rishon, welcome.

Rishon Blumberg: Hi, thank you so much for having me. Happy to be here.

Aderson: Perfect. Rishon, let me start by asking who's your client?

Rishon: In our nomenclature, our client is the tech talent and the people that hire them are the customers. So, if the question is, "Whom do we represent?" basically, we're looking to represent the best of the best tech freelancers, the goal being to take sort of the - you're using the word "Ouch" - pain out of finding, vetting very high-quality tech talent, which seems to be, universally, a challenge.

Aderson: So, let's dig a little bit deeper into your organization, into 10x Management. What is the business proposition of your agency?

Rishon: Essentially, we serve two constituencies. We serve the tech talent that we represent, first and foremost, and then we also serve customers or companies that are trying to find, access great tech talent who have challenges that they need to solve. So, essentially, we're serving these two different markets, and the real value proposition to each, I'll start with our clients - I'd say the number one value proposition for our clients is that we're taking all of the business elements off of their plate. They don't have to negotiate contracts with companies, they don't have to worry about the legal language, and an NDA, and a protection they have there or don't have there. Same thing for the contract, they don't have to worry about negotiating the rate, payment terms, things like that.

Then, as the engagements proceed, we deal with all of the invoicing, and chasing money, and collecting money. We also function, once the engagement has started, as a communication liaison. So, we're there for either our client or for the company to address any issues that might come up. We're not project managing the engagements, but we're really a third party that's there to help ensure that things run smoothly.

That segues nicely into the value proposition for the companies we work with. In addition to giving them very quick access to pre-vetted, highly-skilled talent, one of the things that we do is that we work with them on an ongoing basis as the engagement unfolds just to make sure that things are running smoothly. So, they don't have to worry about if they have a freelancer who, perhaps, is tardy in the delivery of a segment of a project, they don't really have to worry about chasing that person down.

If there's any kind of issue, they can come to us, and conversely, which happens, I think, more often, I think our clients, typically, are waiting for a response for the customer for something that they built, designed, what have you, and often, those delays can cause delays in the overall project. So, if there's a challenge in getting a customer to respond to something, client comes to us, we then try and chase the customer down to sort of make them aware of what their slow-response time will do to the overall project. Essentially, for the two different constituencies, we have a different value proposition, but they dovetail nicely.

Aderson: Okay, so I'm going to give a little bit of backstory here of how I came across your company, your organization, yourself. I read that New Yorker article that was published back in 2014, and again, very nicely put-together article there, and I know that you and your partner, you have the background on being agents for music superstars. We might be going a little bit off tangent here, but what kind of comparison do you make between working with music superstars and working with techie superstars? Give me the comparison there.

Rishon: I think it's interesting. As we've been in this business now for about five years, many of our clients, I would say maybe even 75 to 80 percent of our clients are also musicians. So, I think that, in general, the fundamental creative basis that allows somebody to be technically very savvy is very similar to the skill set that allows a musician to be very creative. I think it's a mindset, the way that the mind works, the way that problem-solving occurs for an artist and for a developer, I think, is very similar.

I also think there are a lot of personality traits that are similar. For example, I think that artists often create best in isolation, create in environments that are quiet, perhaps late at night. I find this to be very, very true of the talent that we work with on the tech side. A lot of them want to work remote not necessarily because they're hermits, but because they don't work as effectively when they're in an office environment and somebody could just drop by and tap them on the shoulder. It sort of breaks that flow state. I think the flow state is something both developers and artists share.

An area where I think they're different, and I've talked about this a lot, is a musician, all through their life growing up, their parents, their teachers, everybody who's sort of seen them perform in any way, shape, or form lauds them, gives them all this adulation, "You're so amazing, you're great, you're going to be a star." So, I think the mental mindset of a musician, because of a lot of what they do is so public, they've got this really healthy and developed ego that they think they're great, and I think that's very important if you're going to be a performer to have that confidence.

I think the opposite is true for most of the developers we've worked with. In their instance, a lot of what they're doing is very solitary. Your parents may understand, conceptually, what you're doing, but they can't look at a line of code and say, "Oh my god, the way you wrote that code, it's so elegant and efficient. You're going to be amazing." I think that the ego is a little bit more reserved and subtle, so I think that that's a fundamental difference between the two types of talent. But, at the end of the day, we refer to our tech clients as talent the same way we refer to our music clients as talent. They are creative entities.

Aderson: I got the idea that, with 10x Management, you go way and above a traditional staffing agency. Tell me a little bit of what is the difference between a more traditional one, a more traditional staffing agent that will staff a client with coders or with techie people in your model, your agency.

Rishon: I can't speak all that extensively about staffing agencies because I don't have a ton of experience with them, interacting with them. But, I can tell you what we believe sets our company apart from other companies and/or platforms that might provide tech talent. First and foremost, because we're an agency, the relationship that we have to the clients that we represent is different. We take a very small flat percentage of 15% from all the clients we work with, so everything is completely transparent. I think a lot of other companies, they may hire somebody out for $100 an hour, but they're really paying that person $40 or $50 an hour, and they're taking that arbitrage and that's their profit.

Right off the bat, everybody that works with us understands and gets the same deal, the customers are also made aware of the amount of money, the percentage that we take from our clients, and because we took the concept of representation from the entertainment world, we really work for them, they don't work for us. I feel like traditional staffing agencies tend to be fairly transactional. They put you on an engagement, and maybe it lasts six months, maybe it lasts a month, and then you're done with the engagement, and perhaps they find something for you immediately, perhaps they don't.

We're really a boutique agency where we get to know the people we represent fairly well, we have a pretty sophisticated CRM so we understand a lot about the people that we represent and are able to match them really effectively. One of the statistics that we love to throw around is that 95% of the engagements that we do with our customers, they're using the first person that we recommend to them.

We really get a chance to know the clients that we work with. It's transactional in nature, but because we're there with them throughout the entire process both in negotiating and sort of onboarding them onto the engagement and then working with them to support during the engagement, I think it has much more intimate relationship. That's what I would say, fundamentally, is the difference between us and a typical staffing agency.

Aderson: Okay, that makes perfect sense. Now, let me ask you a little bit about why. Why would a talented tech person approach you guys? You brushed through that already. You mentioned about contracts, you mentioned about doing the legal part, taking care of the payments. But, let's explore a little bit more about the why. If I am a tech superstar, why don't I go just on my own and do everything by myself as opposed to going to an agency like yours?

Rishon: First and foremost, I think it's because you want to, if you are great, focus on what you're great at, and I can tell you, categorically, that nobody is great at representing themselves, period. Not everyone can get representation whether you're a tech, musician, an actor, an athlete. Not everybody is going to rise to the level where there's a demand to be represented. But, if you are really good at what you do, then you're always going to benefit by having a third party represent your business interests.

I think that what really attracts people to us, aside from the fact, as you pointed out like with the New Yorker feature, we've been profiled significantly in the media where I think that we've established enough of a reputation that people know, when they're going to 10x, that they're going to get somebody better, which I think, in and of itself, is an attractor both to companies that hire the people we work with, and to the freelancers we work with.

But, I think, first and foremost, as I mentioned in the value proposition, we're freeing you up to only focus on those things that you do the best. So, you don't have to worry about the legal terminology in a contract, you don't have to worry about payment terms and chasing a customer that you're working with. These are areas where you don't necessarily want to be in conflict with the customer that you're building the product for because it just makes that part of your job that much more difficult if you've got this acrimony of like, "Hey, you haven't paid me in 60 days. What's going on here?"

I think a lot of what attracts people to us has to do with the value proposition of taking all those elements off their plate. Sure, we're also bringing in great engagements for you, we're sourcing most of your work. But, I'll be honest with you, when we talk to a prospective client, that is not something we focus on because we want everybody we represent to still be out there networking in the same way and looking for opportunities themselves, and frankly, looking for opportunities for other 10x'ers.

We have a great sort of referral program where 10x'ers can refer an engagement to another 10x'er and get paid a commission for that. We want our clients to be out there networking still, but really, what we're doing is we're taking all of those pain points in dealing with customers off their plate, and I think that is probably the number one reason why people come to us.

Aderson: Makes perfect sense. Now, let me ask you this, Rishon. Does it feel a little bit strange that - again, I try to poke the bear here and there - I'm a tech talent, and I'm maybe approached by a customer, an end client, and I say, "Hey, I'll bring my agents to talk on my behalf"? Because that's not a situation that happens too often in the industry, so isn't that a bit strange, a bit awkward, or this is not the scenario at all that happens, and the process is completely different from what I just described? Tell me a little bit about that.

Rishon: When we first started out about six years ago, five, six years ago, when a client would pass us into the end customer, sort of introduce us into the process, customers were a little bit like, "Agent, what are you talking about?" Now, we don't get that at all ever. Frankly, I always thought it was weird that there wasn't an agent involved already. When we were first looking into this business, we had this idea for many, many years because we've been hiring tech talent ourselves.

It's always shocking to me when an in-demand sector doesn't have a third party operating exactly the way that we do, because it's not a natural thing for you to represent yourself to a third party. You're not going to be able to negotiate as well on your own behalf as somebody else who does this for a lot of other people is going to be able to do for you. That's the reason why in movies, music, sports, you see agents and you have seen agents dominate for so many years because they're essentially professional negotiators, and their clients aren't.

It's always been surprising to me that there aren't more agents in more sectors, because there are plenty of other areas where there is this kind of a balance between talent. You know, there's a shortage of talent, or at least, very good talent and a high demand for that talent. So, anywhere you have a shortage of supply and an increase in demand, you're going to probably find some sort of an agency not too dissimilar from ours.

Aderson: Let me ask you this. I mentioned about the fact that why a great tech person would not go on their own, and you gave me a good explanation about that. Now, let's go the other way around. Why does a great talent not just get a job? Because, I would assume that, by approaching a company like yours, an agency like yours, what they are also asking for is, "I need stability here. I need to focus on what I'm good at, and I need to have a stable living. I don't want to go through the ups and downs," so why not just go the other way around and, "Hey, forget about this life of being a freelancer. I'm just going to go for a job, because I'll get security," and again, "security", "And I'll get to do just my coding, just the tech side." So, why not just go to a job?

Rishon: Right. Answering the first part of the question first, I actually think that the clients that we work with don't come to us because they want security, or they want to get off the roller coaster. I think it's actually they want to be able to choose the opportunities that they work on. So, I think they want to be exposed to a variety of opportunities and get to pick and choose those. I mean, we have a lot of clients who will work, say, for six months of the year, will work 40, 60, 80 hours a week, and then they'll take six months of the year off.

I think it's more about variety than it is about security, and the reason that they don't get a job, I think, has a lot more to do with sort of the millennial mindset. Not that a lot of our clients are millennials, but I believe that the millennial mindset and the work environment that we see prevalent today, it doesn't really lend itself for traditional employment. I think the tenure of people working in companies now is under two years, so people are changing jobs a ton.

So, the security that we used to see with people staying in jobs 20, 30, 40 years, I don't think that the people in the workforce today fear that insecurity, or value that kind of security the same way. I think the people that we represent, and I mentioned this before, they want to work on a variety of different problems, and I think, very often, what I've heard from our own clients is when they're working in a larger company - we've got a lot of people that are coming, say, from Google - they loved Google in a lot of ways, but what they didn't love is they felt like they were just a cog in a machine, in a big machine, and they didn't necessarily feel that their contribution was as meaningful.

I think a little bit of it is being able to pick and choose the engagements you want, work where you want, when you want, and also it's about having a meaningful contribution to a company. Solving a problem for a company, I would say, is the number one motivation for the clients that we represent. They really want to be presented with challenges that others have had trouble solving. That's definitely the most enjoyable engagement that our clients will be on where somebody else has failed at something and they can go in and succeed.

But, I think that people just value different things today. They want quality of life, almost everybody we've worked with, categorically, wants to work remotely. It doesn't mean that we won't place people on site. We do. But, it's certainly not our sweet spot, and even though our people aren't, what I would call, offshore talent, most of them, I would say 90% are North American, they don't want to be on site. They want to work, as I mentioned, sort of that flow state, they want to work when they're most creative, when they're most productive, and very often, that is not your typical 9 to 5.

I think that that really is a motivation more than people wanting security, or people wanting to sort of get off the roller coaster ride. They want the freedom to choose those things that they feel best address who they are as a talent, technical talent.

Aderson: What you're saying is that they want to have control over their careers, they want to be meaningful contributors to whatever they decided to do in life, and they want to have the freedom to decide, "I want to go this direction or that direction," and then that's really it, isn't it?

Rishon: By the way, I should mention, they're not employees of ours, so we don't force anybody to take an engagement. We want somebody to be interested in the project and have a genuine desire to work on it. So, we would never say to somebody, "Dude, you have to take this gig. This is important. You got to take this." It's totally in their control whether they want to be submitted for it or not.

Aderson: But, again, I'm assuming that it's part of what you do is opening their eyes to, "Hey, you are not seeing this on the right angle. There's a big opportunity here," so I'm assuming that you guys take a very proactive approach of saying, "Hey, you may not see this, but check this out. I mean, you should check this a little bit closer, you know." It's part of what you do as well, isn't it?

Rishon: It is, both with our clients and with the customers. Because, sometimes, we'll present one of our clients to a customer, and they may say, "Well, this person looks great and they have these skills, which are important, but I don't see this one other skill," and we'll always push back and say, "Talk to the person, get to know them a little bit better, see if you still think they don't have that skill," because not everybody -- we have a sort of this robust intake form for our clients as far as skill sets. Sometimes, a client doesn't put every single skill set on there, so we always encourage a customer to speak to our client to get to know them a little bit better, because the two-dimensional profile, it's really a guide post. It's not the gospel of who somebody is.

Aderson: Let's talk a little bit, Rishon, about talent acquisition. Tell me how it's happening currently. Are people, are talents coming to you, getting attracted to your agency, and then you vet them out, or are you guys proactively going after a talent out there?

Rishon: First of all, probably 90% of the people that we current represent came to us through a trusted source. Whether that's a current client of ours, or a customer, what's happened a number of times is a CTO we're dealing with at a company might leave that company, and then reach out to us and say, "I've had such a good experience dealing with you guys and dealing with the talent that you represented. I'm out of my job. Would you consider representing me?" So, probably 90% of the people that we work with came in through a trusted source, which is, as you can imagine, great, because in a lot of ways, some of the vetting has already been done for us there.

We have about 4,000 people that have also applied to be represented by us, and I would say, on average, there are probably 20 to 30 applications per week. We really pride ourselves on finding the best and the brightest, and so what dictates growth for us is not how many people apply to be represented, but it's really about keeping a quality level high, and that means that the talent has to be spectacular, but it also means we have to feel like we, as agents, can rise to a level to ensure that we're providing the talent with as many opportunities as they want.

We've really had an easy time, and I think this is largely because of the press coverage we've had, and maybe also just the value proposition in general, we've had a very easy time attracting talent, but we have been very, very cautious about bringing talent in off of the waiting list for a variety of reasons, the number one reason being quality. We want to ensure the quality is high.

You also asked if we go out and proactively seek people. There are occasions where a customer will come to us with a need that we don't have coverage for, and we will then go out either to our waiting list, but more often than not, to our current client base and say, "Hey, we're looking for a rock star in this realm. Do you guys know anybody that we should be talking to?" So, that will happen on occasion.

But, more often than not, we've got somebody really good on the waiting list, and we'll bring them on board, and we'll vet them. Vetting, for us, it's a multipronged approach, but there are two central areas: there's the talent, the technical talent aspect, and then there's sort of the personal personality business acumen, problem-solving aspect. I would say the secret sauce for what we do is more, believe it or not, on the personality and problem-solving side than it is on the tech side.

What we do on the tech side is we have our own existing clients be the vetting mechanism there, because we want them to feel vested in the process of bringing and expanding our client base, and also we want to ensure that the weakest link is still very strong, because every client affects every other client. If we have one client who does a terrible job, it affects the reputation of 10x as a whole, so we want to ensure that the clients are involved in that process.

Then, on the personality sides, it's something that my partner and I are very closely involved with, and I think, from years and years of working with artists and creative types, we have a real shorthand for understanding what types of people will kind of shoot themselves in the foot, and who are better at customer service.

We want our clients to really be able to add value to the customers they work with. So, it's not about being the yes man or woman. It's really about communicating effectively, and sometimes that communication might be, "Hey, I think you're building this or approaching this the wrong way. Here's what I would recommend." But, it all starts and ends with communication, so the communication level, the communication style has to be very sophisticated, and I think we knock out more potential candidates because they fail that test than they fail the tech test. And test, we're not giving them actual tests. We actually don't believe in code tests, by the way.

That's kind of the process that we go through as far as finding talent, whom we represent, and how we go about finding them.

Aderson: Again, you just burned one of my questions, which was, "What was your vetting process?" and you just mentioned that. I just want to quickly recap on that. There are two aspects: one is the tech part of it. The other one is the personal skills part of it, and from what I gather, the tech aspect, it's actually the network. The other clients, they help doing the vetting as well. Is that correct? Is that what I gather from what you told me?

Rishon: That is correct. Most of the time, because we're getting our clients through a recommendation or referral from somebody whom we already know, a trusted source, the technical vetting portion of it, when you know somebody, if you have a client who is phenomenal and they say, "You've got to represent my friend; he's even better than I am," we don't worry as much about the technical vetting in those instances. When we're bringing somebody in off the waitlist, we utilize our existing client base to do the technical vetting. So, if somebody is an iOS specialist and we're bringing them on board, we're going to go to one of our existing iOS specialist client and they're going to do the technical interview.

The two main points are sort of the EQ, which is the personality business acumen, problem-solving, then the IQ, but we still do a lot of traditional HR, which is reference checks, and I'll be honest, we do a lot of cyber-stalking. We want to see what your social persona is, who you are, what your interests are. We try to find out as much as we can about somebody when we bring them on board.

Aderson: Are they exclusive to your agency, Rishon?

Rishon: They are. Fundamentally, we believe that the representation should work almost exactly the way it does in Hollywood. If you want to work with Tom Cruise, Tom doesn't have four or five agencies and you talk to like, if you want to do an indie movie, you talk to ICM, if you want to do a blockbuster, you talk to CAA. He has one agent; they handle all of it.

The concept here is we want to control our clients' calendar, meaning that we don't want them going out and sourcing other freelance work when they're on an engagement that we've put them on. It's partly because the more we work with our client, the more we understand who they are, partly because we want to make sure we are keeping a consistent pay scale and rate for them. So, if we price them one way and they go and they find a customer on their own and price themselves at a lower rate, that's not going to benefit them in the long run.

One of the things that we really -- again, you're talking about value propositions. The companies that we worked with were able to say to them, "Hey, we control their calendar, so you don't have to worry that they're going to go out and source other work or they're going to be distracted by 58 other things. If we put a resource on your engagement, they're on your engagement." So, it's really philosophically ingrained in what we do to have this exclusive relationship, because it benefits both parties in ways they may not have thought of initially, but we're well aware of.

Aderson: A lot of what you mentioned, Rishon, was from the start of a project, from the negotiation to the contract closing. Now, let's talk a little bit about later on down the road, which is we have a project going on, then what? Then, aside from the beginning of the engagement, what else does 10x Management help through the life of that project? Are you guys acting as a PM as well? What is your role during the project?

Rishon: We definitely don't act as a PM. We have PM clients, so any customer that, maybe, doesn't have a built-out tech department, a CTO, VP of engineering, anybody who needs the additional resource as sort of having a middle person in between the tech and the executive office, we have people like that.

Really, what we try to provide is a third-party outlet for either our client or our customer to utilize as they see fit. Some customers, we never have any interactions with beyond just check-ins. So, we'll check in with every customer and client once or twice a week depending on the project just to make sure, "Hey, everything going okay? Anything we can help with?" Some customers utilize us significantly. "Hey, you know, I'm thinking about bringing so-and-so to California from where they're located for a week to be part of certain meetings. What do you think about that? Would you talk to your client and find out if they'd be okay with that?" or sometimes, they'll say, "Hey, we're putting together a launch of a new product in about three months. We'd really like them to focus on X, Y, and Z. I'm going to talk to them about that, but I just wanted to make you aware."

Really, we're there for our clients and our customers to utilize us as they see fit. We want to help and be an effective part of the process in ensuring that the project runs smoothly. So, that really takes different forms. One area where we do provide sort of ongoing, I would say, kind of like a backstop of communication is in our invoicing process.

So, no matter what a company's payment terms that we negotiate with them are, we send invoices on a weekly basis, and we do that because when we work with our clients in our time sheets, we ask our clients to explain the work that they've done for that week. So, it's an additional form of communication. Our invoices end up being an additional form of communication. I would never want a customer to rely on that as the main source of communication, but at the very least, it's a place where they can say, "Alright, this is the amount of work that was put in for the week, this was the general work covered."

We're not asking our clients to do like a minute-by-minute overview and get super-detailed, but we want our customers to be able to look at the trail of invoices and see the progress of work, and I think that's something that's -- again, I really don't know what other people do, but I think it's something different that we do where we try to give, in our invoicing process, an insight and a view into the work that our clients are doing.

Aderson: You just brought an interesting point which got me thinking about the model that you work with the talents and the end client as well. It seems that you are working on an hourly basis type of setup, not necessarily in the "this project will cost X amount of dollars". So, is that in an hourly basis?

Rishon: At the end of the day, whether it's a fixed bid, retainer, or an hourly rate, everything sort of comes down to an hourly cost. Typically, our project proposals will include an hourly rate, and a project estimate. But, often, a customer is putting a client of ours on retainer. So, there, it's a bit more amorphous. It's a, "I want to retain them for X amount of time per week, or up to X amount of time per week," and when that happens, it's a little bit looser.

When I say looser, I mean if they're putting somebody on retainer for 40 hours a week, if one week, our client works 45 hours, and another week, our client works 35 hours, we're letting that kind of balance out. We'll change the retainer relationship if we see, consistently, that our client is putting in more time than they're being retained for.

More often than not, we do not do fixed bids. I think fixed bids in technology, it's a real recipe for disaster one way or the other. Either the customer is going to feel taken advantage of because they were overbid, were overcharged for a project, or more often than not, our client is going to feel taken advantage of because of scope creep. So, we really will only do a fixed bid in a situation where our client is essentially 100% sure about what the customer wants to be built, and then we both, our client and we have to remain vigilant to ensure that there isn't scope creep there. I would say 98% of our engagements are not fixed bid.

Aderson: That makes sense. Rishon, one of the ways that we learn as people, as professionals, as a business, is via mistakes, via problems, via challenges, via roadblocks, and I like to ask that question. Again, feel free if you don't have anything in mind about that, but that's what I call the horror stories. My question to you is is there anything, a horror story that you came across and the lessons that was learned from that horror story. Again, that's the point of talking about a horror story is that what is that we learned from this problem that we will not be repeating that in the future? Anything comes to mind that you are able to share?

Rishon: One of the things that we talk to our customers about, relating to our clients, is a perfect fit for us for a client working with a customer is not a client who says, "I've got three-quarters of the skills here, but the other quarter, I don't really know that well," that's not a fit, because we don't want our clients learning on the job here. Customers are paying too much money and expecting too much value from our clients.

One of the reasons that we've really sort of been striving for the best and the brightest, and also people that are not straight out of school, people that have a real pedigree of work behind them. By the way, that pedigree doesn't have to be a Google or working for a big company. It just has to be a solid amount of experience, is we want the learning process, we want those failures to have occurred already, so that when they're working with one of the clients or with one of the customers, the companies that we put them with, they're not making those kinds of mistakes.

Will mistakes happen? Absolutely. These are humans creating things that are inherently flawed. No technology is 100% bug-free or problem-free, but we want the experience of working with our clients to be as problem-free as possible. However, there are things that go wrong occasionally. Typically, they tend to be what I would call force majeure things, kind of acts of God.

We had a horrible situation where one of our clients got very ill on a project, and essentially, had to stop working on the project because they had to go to the hospital. We felt horrible for our client, obviously. We support them. But, we felt pretty badly for our customer because they were on a deadline and it really threw off their timeline. So, we worked with them very closely to try and find a suitable replacement and get them back on the timeline as much as possible.

But, I would say it's kind of those unforeseeable things that occur, and that can happen on the customer's side as well. We had a customer that downsized and part of their team was let go in the middle of one of our projects, and some more work ended up being thrust upon our client, and it went beyond what they were initially prepared for, and so that created some delays and some issues.

But, typically, we're vetting the customers enough to know when a customer's going to be a problem to eliminate those types of issues, and we're vetting our clients well enough to know that they're not going to be learning on the job. So, in theory, we should have vetted out a huge percentage of, definitely, rookie mistakes, but typical mistakes that might occur in an engagement. We're not perfect, we don't profess to be perfect, but we try to be as perfect as we can be.

Aderson: Let's talk a little bit about opportunities in the future as well, Rishon. You guys have the pulse of the tech marketing, generally, because I'm sure that you are talking to end customers quite a lot, you see what people are requesting, what companies are demanding. Tell me about new opportunities that you see coming up. What is hot, what is trending, what would you say for someone that, maybe, is starting in the tech field, and they want to focus on something that is trending up right now? What do you say about that?

Rishon: I'm not going to say anything that I think a lot of us don't already know, but the sort of cutting edge is AI, machine learning, automation, and I think virtual and augmented reality. That said, there are still so many opportunities in the -- I mean, it's hard to imagine that technologies and platforms that have only been around a few years are kind of legacy, but in the more traditional nuts and bolts development, because so many companies and governments run on those nuts and bolts, the cutting edge is the future.

So, if you want to be a futurist, and you want to look 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 years out, I would say AI, machine learning, robotics, automation, augmented and virtual reality are your hotspots. But, we're seeing tons of needs, still, for things like Python, Ruby, Java, JavaScript, traditional architecture. Obviously, mobile is huge now and is going to continue to be huge in the near future. Some of the trends that we're seeing that are not so positive are changes in the H1B visa status.

I think anything that stems that ability for companies to get access to great talent, which is already in such low supply, I think it's a real problem for the marketplace, and we've seen, in the first half of this year, what I would call, sort of, companies holding their breath a little bit just to see which way things are going to end up going, politically. And this is not a Donald Trump commentary.

This, I think, happens with any new administration, but this administration has definitely sort of made it public that they want to push the "America first" agenda, which is great in a lot of ways, but, I think, can cause a lot of problems when it comes to tech, in particular, because there is such a shortage not just domestically, but globally. So, if we reduce access to those specialists, it really will hurt the ability for our homegrown companies to gain access to talent.

I also think that the blended workforce, the workforce that is part W-2 and part 1099 - so, part freelance and part full-time in-office workers - I think that economy is growing significantly. I think more and more companies are understanding the need for it not only because they can't find great talent to hire as a W-2, which I think is a huge problem, but also because they understand, from a cost basis, even though you may pay more on, say, an hourly basis versus a W-2 person, the access to very quick capability and knowledge that you can get by bringing in a freelancer gives them such a competitive advantage that they want to take advantage of that.

I think that we're seeing this growing opportunity where companies are understanding the need for this blended workforce, while simultaneously, we're seeing a little bit of a negative impact on the job market itself because the availability of the H1B visas has been ratcheted down.

I do think that we are, as a society, in general, not just in the U.S., but everywhere, we're putting more of an emphasis, at a younger age, on STEM education. So, I think that's going to be in that positive, overall, but we're still seeing more tech jobs than tech talent in the marketplace, and I think that's going to be the case for the foreseeable future.

We haven't really touched on automation and what that's going to do to the workplace, in general, and I'm not sure it's right for this podcast, but I think that is a major, major impact over the next 15 to 75 years, we're going to see seismic changes. But, I do think technologists, in particular, are going to still be in very high demand because all of those changes are going to be due to technology and the progress of technology, and so you'll need people to sort of build, iterate, and service those industries. But, that's going to be a major, major change over the next half century.

Aderson: Actually, you brought a good point there. We're coming towards the end here, and I usually like to ask, as a final point, of what is one thing that you still think it's relevant for this conversation, but you haven't touched yet. Is that the automation, the AI future that we live in? Again, go for it.

Rishon: I would definitely say it's AI and it's automation. I think that we have seen, over the last 100 years, in a lot of different ways, automation and robotics change the employment structure, whether it's from horse and buggy to car to manufacturing to just-in-time manufacturing that the Japanese brought into play in the '80s. There have been so many things that have occurred that have displaced other economies, but typically, they've been displaced and replaced with something else.

I think that we really need to focus a lot of attention on what this next wave of AI and automation is going to do because I think it's going to eliminate a lot of types and categories of jobs that are not going to be replaced one-for-one by other things. So, there will be a time where we really have to focus, and I think the focus has to occur now, but there will be a time where you'll actually see massive sectors of unemployment not because the economy isn't humming. The economy will be humming great.

Automation and AI will bring down the cost of goods and the efficiency of production so that prices will be much lower and the economy will be humming nicely, but you'll have massive unemployment, and I think that is going to be the next big issue that we, as a society, not just the U.S., and it's not just low-income. It's everybody is going to have to think of.

We're actually going to be launching an initiative in the next few months called "The Day after Labor", which is trying to focus attention specifically on all the information that's out there, positive and negative, because there are definitely people that have some positive spin on what the future holds.

But, regardless, we need to be focusing our lawmakers and our best and brightest minds on addressing these issues proactively, and at least talking about what options are as this begins to really creep into our society. Driverless cars, you're talking about millions and millions of U.S. jobs, probably around 4 to 5 million U.S. jobs that could disappear with the adoption of driverless cars and trucks. That, I would say, is the number one hot-button issue that we're thinking about.

Aderson: Just want to step back, before I let you go, you mentioned AI deployed and automation. Have you sourced talents already for those kinds of positions?

Rishon: We definitely have people that are involved in that. I would not say it's a specialty of ours, but certainly, a lot of our clients are interested in it. We absolutely have people who have been involved in AI projects, we have a fair amount of virtual reality and augmented reality people, we have some robotics people. It is definitely not a core competency of ours, but it's an area where we're seeing more interest, and therefore, we're going to be hopefully ramping up in those areas, talent-wise, as well.

Aderson: Before I let you go, I would like to give you a chance to plug 10x Management, how can people reach out to you, reach out to the company, if people are interested in being a part of your talent pool. Talk a little bit about that.

Rishon: Sure. Our main portal is We do have the ability for people to apply to be a client there. I will say, candidly, it's hidden a little bit on the site because we've had so many applications. We feel badly that there are so many people that have applied that we have not been able to bring on board. But, you can apply there. We are only looking for the best and brightest, so please don't apply if you don't think you're the best and brightest, and please be patient with us because there are a lot of people that have applied before you.

For customers, for companies, for CTOs, VP of engineering, people that are in charge of hiring practices, we hope you'll look us up. We're always here to help with any problems that you need to have solved. We work very, very quickly, we work at the speed you need us to work at, and we're always looking for great projects for our clients. So, yeah,

Aderson: Perfect. As usual, all the links that were mentioned during this conversation will be posted in the show notes. Rishon, thank you very much for your time, for your willingness to share your experience, your expertise. I'm really a huge fan of what you guys have built, 10x Management. The value proposition, I think it's awesome. Again, kudos to you guys for coming up with that kind of model. I'm really glad that I was able to talk to you about that. Thank you very much. Have a good one, bye.

Rishon: Thank you so much. Take care, thanks for having me.

I'm an Outsourcerer. I'm a DNN Geek. I help people with their sites @ DeskPal. I'm a #Pomodoro practitioner. I'm a husband and a father of 2 beautiful girls.

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Aderson Oliveira
Aderson Oliveira